There was a full two minutes back there—three, practically—when Crystal Palace looked as if it might pull off the greatest victory in its 110-year history. Having been outplayed till then in the FA Cup, Joel Ward put in a sort of cross just as midfielder Jason Puncheon sprinted beyond the pack. Puncheon gathered it and in a blink snuck it into the goal.
This came in the 79th minute, to which point Man U had dominated possession, 69 percent to 31 percent, and had taken 16 shots to Palace’s 6. Manchester United had been considered the strong though not overwhelming favorite to win. Palace needed a break if they were going to hoist the silverware, and late in the match, they’d gotten it.
The lead burned bright—hot enough for Palace manager Alan Pardew to celebrate with an amazing shimmy—and lasted only as long as it took Wayne Rooney to decide to do something about it. In the 81st minute, the Man U striker slalomed his way through the defense and crossed into the box, where the ball found Marouane Fellaini’s chest, and a half-beat later, Juan Mata’s foot. Mata’s blast caromed off Ward’s ankle (you can see him mourning the moment at the bottom of the top photo) and into the net for the equalizer.
In extra time, the match plodded until United defender Chris Smalling got himself tossed with an idiotic foul—what the Guardian called a “cynical drag/pull/rugby tackle”—that gave Palace a man advantage. Again on their heels, Man U got aggressive.
This time it was Antonio Valencia, the Ecuadoran, who dribbled up the right side, weaving, feeling the pressure, and crossed into a tangle of defenders. Palace’s Damien Delaney slid to clear it, but United’s Jesse Lingard plucked it out of the air with an ecstatic, unstoppable strike into the back of the net. For that winner, Lingard was named the man of the match. He told the BBC afterward: “I just had to hit it sweet and I did that. As a sub you’ve always got to be ready.”
Manchester United won its 12th FA Cup—tied with Arsenal for the all-time lead—and against Crystal Palace have now won 20 of their past 21 matches. Palace missed out on what would’ve been its first major trophy (and miss end a century-plus drought like Scotland’s Hibernian did earlier in the day). Palace made the FA Cup finals in 1990, as well, and also lost then to Manchester United, a match that Pardew played in as a 28-year-old Palace midfielder.